It's no secret that I'm a fan of The Story of the World series from (that's an affiliate link -->) Peace Hill Press. We've used the series from kindergarten through fourth grade and history has been one of our favorite subjects during that time. Take a look at how I organize our history lessons with The Story of the World.
History with Story of the World
When we started using The Story of the World we did so many projects - creating a model of the Nile river, making our own papyrus and a 'Fruitenkhamen' mummy were some of the more memorable projects from our first year. During our second year, we had a little co-op with some friends and did many great projects - designing our own coat of arms and shields, making rice Krispie treat castles (the kids really liked that project!), and creating Moroccan tile designs were some of the favorites. These last two years haven't been as project heavy - TJ seems to have outgrown the desire for them. Now we spend more time reading history books and talking about them (preparation for our next stage of history, I guess!).
Avoiding myths & ancient beliefs
Over the years I've read a few comments here and there about the negative aspects of the books - specifically the 1st and 4th books. In book 1, many stories are shared about the belief systems of ancient cultures - gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome all make an appearance. Biblical stories are also included in the text but many feel that including both can be confusing for children. We read some of the myths but I chose not to spend too much time on them. It's also very easy to include more Bible stories if that's something you prefer. Looking back, I don't regret my decision to include some of the ancient beliefs. And, honestly, my daughter doesn't really remember a much about that first book anyway.
Do I regret spending so much time on history because she doesn't remember as much as I would like? No! We had so much fun cuddling up with great picture books and making messes with projects. I learned a great deal about what makes me comfortable as a teacher and I learned so much about history and HIS-story that I absolutely have no regrets. If nothing else, it's been a great time to educate myself so I'll be better prepared for our next history cycle.
Teaching modern history
Many people also struggle with teaching book 4, which I can also understand - the modern time period is full of wars and power struggles. TJ would groan and say, "another war... really?" That's certainly not the fault of the book, it's just what was happening at the time.
But, if you think of book 4 as a springboard for further reading, you can spend your time learning about all the great inventions and discoveries made within the last century. You can work on geography with mapping. You can use the chapters to work on outlining and writing skills or spend your days reading more books. Focus on other aspects of the modern era - the interesting people, various world cultures, fairy tales & literature from different countries, the great inventions, and creativity of the age. So, while the content of the time period is dark there are ways to inject some lightness. I wouldn't plan to use it with children younger than 4th grade, though, because of the subject matter.
One of the great aspects of this series is it's easy open-and-go nature (after you do a little prep work of course!). Read the chapter, have your child narrate a selection back to you, choose some other books to read, color, work on a map, and perhaps work on a project. That's it!
When there were specific books that I wanted to include (which was especially true with the first book when we added in more Bible stories) I kept track of them, along with project ideas, videos, etc. on a planning sheet. It didn't take much time to sit down at the beginning of each term and jot down ideas and things I didn't want to miss. (Scroll to the bottom of this post to get a free weekly planning form.)
Start the year with a little organization - put the student pages in a 3-ring binder, add some narration pages with room for drawing and any extra pages. All you need to do is grab the pages you need from the binder each week. Take the teacher's section of the Activity Guide and have it coil bound. Then you're ready to go!
During the school year, you'll just have to order library books every 3 weeks or so (I liked to keep a sticky note in the Activity Guide so I could keep track of how far ahead I had ordered the books). I liked to keep the books in a 'history basket' in the living room and let TJ choose books to read each day.
Projects take the most pre-planning. At the beginning of each term I'd flip through the sections we'd be covering and make note of any interesting projects. I'd write down a list of needed supplies and added them to my shopping list. Everything was kept in a box just for history. This little bit of prep work goes a long way towards making things run smoothly.
The Story of the World is a great series and I really think it is the perfect program for introducing world history to young children. We have really enjoyed using these books and I plan to keep them around to include them in our next history cycle.